Skip to content

Ragtime Musical: Fighting for the American Dream

On the road with TCP Magazine, led to the production of “Ragtime” at the Stewart Theatre on North Carolina State University campus in the Talley Student Union building. It was presented by the University Theatre  from the book by Terrence McNally, Music by Stephen Flaherty, and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. I was on the edge of my seat, singing the songs, knew what to expect in each scene, and was mentally immersed in this show! After personally performing in Ragtime 3 years ago, and fell in love with this production, there’s no better place I rather be! The scene takes place In the early 1900’s, the immigrants came to America for a better life, and yet the African Americans who were here, struggled for freedom and acceptance, but dealt with racism and discrimination.

Ragtime music is a syncopated, off beat rhythm that evolved from African Americans played on the piano. This music was played during the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. It was played at the beginning and the epilogue with “Wheels of a Dream.” Nicole Hiemenz (Mother), Tim Eldred (Father), Byron Jennings, II (Coalhouse Walker Jr.), Isaiah Lewis (Tateh) along with the cast, and crew of students and staff that performed, displayed professionalism at its best. The songs, the orchestra, dancing, and the young ladies using their parasols to emulate a car driven by Coalhouse, exhibited an energetic performance. Mother embraced Aysia Slade (Sarah) and cared for her and the child born from Coalhouse.  Tateh like any other immigrant wanted a better life for himself and his daughter. It’s the America dream! I sat next to the grandson of the young man that played Houdini, (Grayson Fulp) a freshman who had to shave his beard and make sure he kept his hair long. He shared that Grayson was honored to be a part of this production.

Even though the production depicted the times then, let’s fast forward to 2020. What is the American dream? Tateh made his dreams come true! He made a better life making movies, and married Mother. However, Coalhouse started a rampage of killings because of racism, discrimination, and no justice. But he was killed because he took justice into his own hands. Coalhouse wanted a better way of life too! He wanted the American dream! His song, “Make them Hear you” (how justice was denied). What happens to a dream deferred?”….

The Cast
Sarah & Coalhouse

Never let them see you sweat in “Sweat!” by Edith Berry

On the road with TCP Magazine, I saw the production of “Sweat,” with the Justice Theater Project by Lynn Nottage and the dynamic director, Jerry Sipp! I said, ” Never let them see you sweat” about J. Ra’Chel Fowler (Cynthia),  because that’s exactly what she did. She was asked to join the JTP cast 5 days before opening night, and learned 400 lines in 5 days during tech week. On the 2nd day after opening night, no script in hand, Ra’Chel delivered an outstanding performance that is deserving of a Tony Award! I was intrigued to know how she did this. Who is J. Ra’Chel Fowler?

Ra’Chel was excited to return to the stage after recently earning two graduate degrees (M.S. in Forensic Pyschology and Criminal Justice). She tapped into her performance training from earning a B.A. in theater from North Carolina Central  University. She has performed with the late Dr. Baba Chuck Davis’ African American Dance Ensemble (AADE), and Ayoluwa African Dance Ensemble. Ra’Chel’s previous theatrical productions are extensive, including Seven, Worried, For Colored Girls, Ragtime, and Black Nativity.

Ra’Chel had no choice in how to proceed! It was all or nothing! Her work ethic as an individual, and as an actor, required a push beyond normal efforts. Ra’Chel received some incredible memorization tips from Director Jerry Sipp called Rememborization. In the words of her character Cynthia, “it’s what I do!”

Her greatest Joy’s are her three children: Kourtnee’, Josiah & Jeremiah. Ra’Chel believes the difference between living and existing is “PASSION. “Her mantra in life is D2BD~Dare 2B Different!  “If you’re ever lucky to be different, don’t ever change.” This has been a special Black History moment! Get tickets for Sweat at:

Loving by Edith Berry

On the road with TCP Magazine I saw the production of “Loving,” by Peter Manos at Pure Life Theatre. This was a touching and moving story. It was eloquently directed by Deb Royals Mizerk, and music direction by Ronzel Bell. The six cast members displayed an intricate relationship during the 1950’s on racial relationships. Richard Loving (Sean Brosnahan) and Mildred Loving (Aya Wallace) had to deal with the anti-miscegenation law which made intermarriage illegal. The affection of the Loving’s relationship were genuinely portrayed. They were not allowed to live under the same roof, even though they were married.

The songs were poetically sung. JaJuan Cofield as brother, did just what brothers do, protect their little sisters! Chanda Branch and Rodney Martin as narrators, told the “Loving’s” story through song and as characters in the story. They made the audience feel like they were the Loving’s best friends! Tracy Davis as Attorney Cohen made us feel apprehensive if he could even handled this case.

This production in February as the month for Valentine’s day, and Black History month was such a befitting time to showcase an interracial couple. The Loving’s withstood the laws of Virginia to profess their love for each other, of a White man towards an African American woman. That was then, but now in 2020, interracial couples are more prevalent, and have more acceptance in the community. However, discrimination and racism still prevails in this country. The show runs until March 29th. Rev. Dr. William J. Barber shared about racism and discrimination in this country with patrons, and blessed the Pure Life Theatre building, and the 1st show of the new year. You can purchase tickets at:

NRACT 2020-2021 Season Announcement by Edith Berry

Read more…

Bourbon at the Border by Edith Berry

On the road with TCP Magazine, I went to the North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre on Sunday, February 9, 2020. I knew all 4 characters in this show. The character of May was played by Tina Morris- Anderson, her husband Charlie, Joseph Callendar and Rosa, Dr Joy Bryant, and her beau Tyrone, Juan Isler. May and Charlie will never forget “Feedom Summer” in Mississippi of the 1964 voter registration drive. It changed their lives forever, in which civil rights workers were killed or wounded. Their friends Rosa and Tyrone also known as “Sweet Thang,” would come to May’s house for a drink. It couldn’t come quick enough for all the patrons to hear Rosa say that special pet name for Tyrone, “Sweet Thang!”

May was determine that if Charlie crossed the border to Canada, the demons he had been fighting would go away! Tyrone helped Charlie  get a job, but all Mayhem began to unfold. And why does this production have the word “Bourbon?” Well that’s the drink these two couples had whenever they were together. A little drink dulls the senses, but the pain never goes away. The price paid in 1964 was too costly! We felt the pain, and challenges of this civil rights movement, and the effect it placed on relationships!

I’m looking at this new year of 2020. It’s 56 years later, and civil rights activists are still trying to register people to vote? Are you registered? The cast members had to study their characters for a few weeks before any actual rehearsing under the direction of Natasha Jackson. She prepared the cast extremely well, in their character’s portrayal. If Joy Bryant mentioned another Knock-Knock joke, the full house of patrons were going on stage to get her. She was funny though, but the joke wasn’t funny! The ending left me speechless. Thank goodness, that the Artistic Director, Timothy Locklear passed out tissues during intermission, so I braced myself. However, I was moved at the embracing of flowers, a framed certificate, and love toward Natasha Jackson in her first debut as a director. She had always been a stage manager. It was a very touching moment. The cast and crew exhibited strong emotions, as well as comedy the entire production. It soften the pain to take it all in. This is how it feels, in being on the road with TCP Magazine.

Celebrating Nina Simone with Lynnette Barber by Edith Berry

On the road with TCP Magazine, led me to the Richard B. Harrison Community Library in Raleigh NC on Sunday February 16, 2020. We explored the life of this jazz legend, by viewing a film about her time at the Julliard School in 1950, and her entire career as an artist. This Black History celebration of Nina Simone from a small town of Tryon, North Carolina at the Harrison library had a great turnout.

Lynnette Barber, with the accompaniment of Will Ellis on keyboard, and Bradley Simmons on drums, serenaded us with quite a few  songs, such as: “I love you Porgy,” and my favorite, “Four Women!” Lynnette had the audience engaged with singing in a call and response from 3 men that volunteered and 4 women that danced. While I was videotaping this event live, she turned to me and asked me to dance. African dancing has always been one of my passions! There were several women that popped up dancing in the room! Lynnette took her us to church with gospel songs too! This has been a Black History moment of gospel, blues, jazz, and pop! This is life on the road with TCP Magazine!

Lynnette Barber ~ Soloist
Will Ellis ~ Keyboardist
Bradley Simmons ~ Drummer

Sweat by Edith Berry

The Justice Theater Project presented the production of “Sweat” to a full house February 15, 2020 at Umstead Park UCC in Raleigh, NC. This production was written by playwright Lynn Nottage, and directed by Jerry Sipp. This was a Regional Premiere 2017 prize winning show. The time period takes place 2000/2008 in Reading, Pennsylvania. The common bond with the coworkers from the factory takes place in a bar. But like anywhere else, when a job promotion is ensued, friction happens with trust, and friendship is challenged!

I’m sitting with my team at a table in a bar setting atmosphere, but of course we weren’t served any drinks. The bar on stage looked so authentic! John Honeycutt as bartender was a natural,  Juan Isler was Evan the Parole Officer, but also the Resident sound designer.  Kelly Caniglia made me want to take a nap, because she stayed in character, in a cool relaxed mode that I just loved. Ra’Chel Fowler as Cynthia, was a fiery, strong, person that tried to keep her life, job, home, and relationship together. After a 2 year hiatus away from the theater, she was like the fourth of  July! Watch out for Gerald Louis Campbell as Brucie, Cynthia’s man! Pure fireworks! The cast was like watching a film of lights, camera, and much action! The crew that did the set transformed you to another place! It’s definitely a “must see” production! Then you will know why it received a Pulitzer! There’s still time for you to see it until March 1, 2020. Get tickets at: or call (919)264-7089

Andrea Amthour Swiss ~ Andrea¹
Brandonn Odom ~ Chris
John Honeycutt~Stan
Kelly Caniglia ~ Jessie
Juan Isler ~ Parole Officer Evan Crew on the road with TCP

Dreamgirls  by Edith Berry

The young adults of North Carolina Central University Theatre department presented a high energy, showstopping production Friday February 14, 2020! I first saw this show in 1981 on Broadway in NYC when I live there, and Jennifer Holiday played Effie. Then I saw the movie with Beyonce Knowles as Deena, and Jennifer Hudson as Effie in 2006, and now the role of Effie from Candice Mayfield, a college student, was just as strong. The playwright is Tom Eyen, Composer Henry Krieger, and the Music Director was  Michael Williams and directed by Dr. Nadia Bodie-Smith. The orchestra stayed on cue, and the choreographers Mychal Keels and Justin Williams, presented precision and finesse in each dancer’s movement. The timing and blocking in movement throughout the musical was airtight! The lead character of Curtis Taylor Jr. by Antwan Hawkins, Jr. made the audience hate him or liked him. His portrayal caused an authenticity of emotions throughout the production towards Effie. Candice Mayfield portraying Effie, had the audience giving her a standing ovation in singing, “I’m Not Going!” She had an impeccable, strong, powerful, voice that made the audience feel her pain in this relationship with Curtis.  Jimmy Early played by Elijah Spencer was entertaining with his singing, dancing, and relationship with Lorrell played by Kirstyn Kasongo. She and Deena Jones played by Taliyah Hearn had phenomenal voices. Zora Umeadi played the replacement for Effie as a Dreamgirl.  Each girl had a powerful vocal range that projected to the back of the theatre. You can determine that much rehearsing was done. The stagehand crew were constantly moving and putting stage props out, faster than the speed of lightening. Look out world, your future Broadway stars are forthcoming! A phenomenal job done by Dr. Bodie-Smith and her staff! Support our young adults artists. The show runs until Sunday February 23rd. You won’t be disappointed! Call for tickets at: (919)530-6242 website: http://www.nccu.edutheatre

Dontae Sharp is Free! by Edith Berry

I was on the road for TCP Magazine at the 14th Annual HKonJ, (The Historic Thousands on Jones Street) People’s Assembly Moral March, in Raleigh on February 8, 2020. Rev. Dr. William Barber II, and other speakers, shared the same issues and concerns that have not been resolved! It has been an all-time high for better health care, racial and gender equality, increasing minimum wage, better housing, and nondiscrimination on the workforce and public places. Other social and economic issues still prevail. Participants were from various political affiliations, youth as well as adults, different ethnicities, races, and sexual orientation. There was a striking story that resonated in my mind from the past, of numerous chants, “Free Dontae Sharp,” in rallying for his release from prison. Now, Dontae is assembled at the march after being released from prison in Pitt County on August 23, 2019. The injustice of this story is that he served 26 years in prison, from the age of 19 years old and presently 45 years old, but found innocent. He made heart rendering remarks that he was thankful! But research showed there was no evidence that linked him to this crime. Within 2 months after the trial, the 15 year old state alleged witness, recanted her testimony, and his alibi was never interviewed by the police. Dontae refused to take a deal to be release. He stood his ground to prove his innocence because he wanted his family to always stand up for the truth. In speaking with him directly one on one, I had to ask how old he was. Yes, I did mental math, but refused to admit he was that age. He said he learned many things from being in prison. Dontae had a forgiven spirit of his circumstance, a smile, and told me it’s okay. He has children and grandchildren now, but missed their formative years in developing and growing without his presence. Dontae is physically free from prison, spiritually free, but in going through the photographs I took of him, I saw he had a cane! Did something happen, for a 45 year old man to have a cane? Did the system compensate him for all those years which imprisoned him of this crime? Is this the new “justice for all?” If this was your father, grandfather, brother, uncle, son, or cousin, what would you say or do? Dontae is free, but has justice been served?

United Arts Council

The 10th Annual State of Arts and Culture in Wake County held on January 29, 2020 at NC Museum of History was presented by: the United Arts Council. The UAC of Raleigh and Wake County’s goal is to build better communities through support and advocacy of the arts. The audience was welcomed by the Board chair, Mark Steward; then a message from current President, Eleanor Oakley saying that she will be watching as she departs from this position, and then remarks from incoming President, Charles Phaneuf. Cultural updates were given by Sarah Powers, Executive Director, Debbie Dunn, Manager of the Wake Forest Renaissance Centre and Freddie-Lee Heath, Director of Arts Education, WCPSS. There were special presentations of the 2020 Awards for the Business Support of the Arts. It was presented by Mark Steward, and Adrienne Kelly-Lumpkin Those businesses were: Large Business: Wells Fargo, Small business: Greg Paul Builders, Inc. Individual/Foundation: Alec Donaldson and Arts Education: Mimi Herman. Entertainment of the Arts, were the Black Box Dance Theatre and the Raleigh Boychoir. The statistics of the Arts in schools, presented a phenomenal impact on our youth. A higher percentage rate of students in the arts program also graduate from High School. Parents and the community need to support the United Arts Council, encourage our young people by enabling them with funds needed to be engaged, promote their talents, and to help them excel to spark hidden talents. The Raleigh Boychoir and other youth in the Arts program serenaded us with beautiful songs taught by Artistic Director Jeremy C. Tucker. Under his leadership, there were Malcolm Vaughn, Student Conductor, and Marcel Pietrus Student Accompanist.